Media outlets from across the country are jumping on the leaked audio from a secret Koch Brothers retreat this summer in which a few high-profile Republican candidates — including Rep. Cory Gardner — are heard getting all gooey in praising the infamous Kochs for their financial commitment to Tea Party and Republican politics. But before you dismiss this as another round of nonsense partisan politics, there's a very real reason why this story is so important (and why it is getting so much attention): Republicans have been very open about the quid pro quo that is taking place between big donors and politicians.
Check out this clip of Rep. Mike Coffman from a CD-6 candidate debate in Aurora on Aug. 15, in which the incumbent berates challenger Andrew Romanoff over the latter's refusal to accept PAC money…while making the clear point that Coffman donors get preferential treatment (full clip after the jump — fast forward to 00:45 for the specific statement). That campaign donors are often granted more access to politicians is nothing groundbreaking — but talking about it so openly is pretty odd.
Coffman's re-election campaign has benefited greatly from a heavy dose of television ads paid for by Americans for Prosperity, the political organization created and funded by the Koch Brothers. Not only that, but David Koch himself had already maxed out to Coffman's campaign before the end of April (PDF document).
Whether it's Gardner doing the Koch stroke, or Coffman using General Dynamics as an example of a donor who didn't get their money's worth, the key here is that Republican elected officials are openly discussing the fact that they are going to listen to their top donors first and foremost — leaving regular ol' Coloradans somewhere down a very long list of priorities.
As the liberal group ProgressNow asked in a press release this morning, the critical question isn't about where these donations came from; what matters is what donors like the Koch Brothers have been promised in return for their largesse.